No other free agent for 2020-21 can match the October pedigree of George Springer, whose 19 career postseason home runs are tied for the fourth most in history. That included four dingers in the '20 postseason for Springer, who was one of the few Astros who hovered near his expected level of play, based on years past, during the regular season (140 OPS+, 14 homers in 222 plate appearances). Now, the lifelong Astro is set to test the free-agent market for the first time as one of the premier offensive players available.
Below is a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the 31-year-old outfielder, who did not accept the Astros' $18.9 million qualifying offer and will be tied to Draft-pick compensation if he signs with a team other than Houston.
Report: Jays and Springer 'beyond just talking'
Nov. 28: Springer is the premier outfielder of this year's free-agent market, and a team looking to build on an exciting 2020 campaign with tremendous young talent in its lineup may be progressing in talks to ink the slugging center fielder.
According to SportsNet's Shi Davidi, Toronto and Springer are "beyond just talking" when it comes to a potential deal to add another big bat to a lineup that already features Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Davidi adds, however, that Springer's agent, just as is the case with many other agents, may be waiting on the Mets to set the market by making the first big splash of the offseason.
Report: Mets targeting multiple big names
Nov. 24: On the day the Braves made another free-agent signing, agreeing with starter Charlie Morton, ESPN's Buster Olney reports that the Mets are looking to be aggressive this offseason, too. According to Olney's source, the Mets are looking to acquire multiple of the "big four" this offseason -- identified by Olney as Springer, Trevor Bauer, J.T. Realmuto and Francisco Lindor, with DJ LeMahieu likely the fifth on that list.
Interestingly, DJ LeMahieu wasn't among the players Olney mentioned. There's been some speculation that the Mets could pursue the second baseman after Robinson Canó was suspended for 162 games without pay, leaving the team with a hole at the keystone and trimming $20.25 million from the 2021 payroll.
The Mets are expected to increase payroll this offseason under new owner Steve Cohen, and they have already been linked to Lindor trade chatter.
Report: Blue Jays eyeing Brantley, Turner in addition to Springer, LeMahieu
Nov. 24: While the Blue Jays remain interested in George Springer and DJ LeMahieu, those aren’t the only two big-name free agents the club is targeting. According to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic (subscription required), Toronto has been in contact with outfielder Michael Brantley and third baseman Justin Turner, among others.
Expected to be among the more aggressive teams this offseason, the Jays already signed Robbie Ray to a one-year, $8 million deal, and Rosenthal reports that they offered Kevin Gausman a three-year contract in the $40 million range before the righty accepted the Giants’ one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer.
With Vladimir Guerrero Jr. moving over to first base last season, the Blue Jays have a hole at third base. Travis Shaw was their regular starter at the hot corner in 2020, but he’s a non-tender candidate.
Turner spent the last seven seasons with the Dodgers, hitting .302/.382/.503 (139 OPS+) with 116 homers. LeMahieu, meanwhile, is primarily a second baseman, but he occasionally played third with the Yankees in the past two seasons.
In the outfield, the Blue Jays currently have a starting group of Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Randal Grichuk and Teoscar Hernández. Grichuk and Hernández are under control through 2023, while Gurriel is controllable through '24. Signing Springer or Brantley would increase the likelihood of a trade involving one of the three incumbents, through Toronto could retain all three and use the designated-hitter spot to keep everyone in the everyday lineup.
Is Springer definitely done in Houston?
Nov. 20: Springer is one of the major reasons why the Astros have been a perennial contender since 2015, but his tenure in Houston could be over. Count MLB.com Astros beat reporter Brian McTaggart among those who don't think Springer will be back.
"I think there's a couple of things in play," McTaggart said in MLB.com's latest experts roundtable discussion. "First, I think the money might get to be too much for the Astros, who are now facing Carlos Correa entering free agency after the '21 season and some upgrades they'll need to make in their pitching staff.
"Secondly, I'm not so sure he wants to stay in Houston. As you may know, the atmosphere here hasn't been great for the past year, though a surprising run to within a game of the World Series helped. Still, I could see him wanting to escape Houston and try to distance himself from the sign-stealing scandal."
MLB Network insider Jon Heyman expressed a similar view earlier this week on the Big Time Baseball podcast.
“I think he’s as good as gone,” Heyman said.
Report: Jays interested in Springer
Nov. 16: Fresh off a postseason appearance, with a young core intact and developing, the Blue Jays have been named multiple times as a team that will be willing to spend this offseason. Fansided's Robert Murray reports that one of the players the team is interested in is George Springer.
MLB Trade Rumors projects a five-year, $125 million contract for Springer. Murray quotes an executive who noted that Springer's makeup is part of why he'd have no issue giving Springer a contract with a $20 million per year price tag.
Springer would provide a reliable power bat, while helping the team improve defensively, as well as providing a veteran presence.
Mets prioritizing Springer?
Nov. 12: It has been presumed that the Mets would have J.T. Realmuto at the top of their wish list this offseason, but SNY's Andy Martino wrote Thursday that the team appears to be focused more on Springer and Trevor Bauer, two other big-ticket free agents.
This comes after MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported Wednesday that the Mets are considered to be one of the favorites for Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, while also seeking a "star-level" outfielder. The two might go hand in hand, as the team could sign Springer and use its outfield surplus to trade for Lindor.
Meanwhile, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reports that the Mets are among a handful of teams with interest in free-agent catcher Yadier Molina, perhaps signaling that New York plans to go with a lower-cost option behind the plate while allocating more of its resources elsewhere.
Morosi: Mets in pursuit of 'star-level' outfielder
Nov. 11: After Marcus Stroman officially accepted the Mets’ one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer on Tuesday, it’s fair to wonder if the club is now likely to be less aggressive in its pursuit of a top-flight free-agent starter this offseason.
Mets president Sandy Alderson made headlines Tuesday when he said in an appearance on WFAN that he thought free-agent righty Trevor Bauer would be a “great personality” in New York. But with Stroman back in the fold, New York may be less inclined to go after someone like Bauer, given its other needs.
That doesn’t mean the team’s rotation is settled, of course. After Jacob deGrom and Stroman, the club has nothing but question marks. Noah Syndergaard is returning from Tommy John surgery, Seth Lugo owns a career 4.35 ERA as a starter (2.53 as a reliever), David Peterson had a 4.52 FIP as a rookie and Steven Matz is a non-tender candidate.
But the Mets may decide their resources are better spent in other areas. The club is expected to be in the mix for catcher J.T. Realmuto, and it’s also considered a top contender for Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, sources told MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi.
Morosi writes that the Mets are looking for a "star-level outfielder" as well, and Springer is the only free agent who really fits that bill besides Marcell Ozuna, an unlikely target for New York given its surplus of corner-outfield types. Signing Springer could influence New York's pursuit of Lindor, as it would give the club an outfield surplus from which to trade.
Report: Blue Jays showing interest in Springer, JBJ
Nov. 9: According to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman on Monday’s episode of the Big Time Baseball podcast, the Blue Jays are expected to look for a center fielder this offseason, and Heyman hears that Springer and Jackie Bradley Jr. are on the team’s list.
Toronto’s outfield was productive on offense last season, with Teoscar Hernández, Randal Grichuk and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. combining for 39 homers and an .862 OPS. However, those three all finished with a negative Outs Above Average figure, while Springer had +1 OAA and Bradley +7.
If they sign Springer or Bradley, the Blue Jays could shift Grichuk from center to right and Hernández to DH full time.
Astros preparing for life without Springer?
Nov. 9: According to a report from WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford, the Red Sox have reached out to center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. about a return, but they aren’t the only team with interest in the 30-year-old free agent.
Per Bradford, the Astros are showing “strong interest” in Bradley, and an unnamed American League Central team has placed him at the top of its free-agent wish list.
Houston’s interest in Bradley may be a signal that the club is preparing for life without Springer, who could command a nine-figure deal. The Astros extended a one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer to Springer, but he is expected to reject it.
Bradley is considered to be a strong defender in center field, and he recorded his highest OPS since 2016 with an .814 mark this past season. MLB Trade Rumors predicts the Astros will sign him for $16 million over two years.
Meanwhile, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reports in an article for The Athletic (subscription required) that the Astros are talking to left fielder Michael Brantley about a return. The 33-year-old hit .309/.370/.497 with 27 homers in 194 games after signing a two-year, $32 million contract with Houston prior to the 2019 season.
Should Springer be the priority for Mets?
Nov. 9: With billionaire Steve Cohen taking control of the Mets, New York is expected to be one of this offseason’s most aggressive clubs, and free-agent catcher J.T. Realmuto and Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor are presumed to be at the top of its list.
In MLB Network insider Joel Sherman’s view, though, the Mets should make Springer their top priority. More >
No contender could use Springer more than ...
Nov. 6: There are plenty of teams that could use the services of Springer, who is the best all-around outfielder on the free-agent market. But MLB.com's Mark Feinsand makes the case that there isn't a contender more in need of an outfield upgrade of Springer's caliber than the Cardinals. After all, they were 14th of 15 NL teams in runs scored last season, and 2021 marks a decade since St. Louis last celebrated a World Series championship. More >
Will Springer replace JBJ in FA?
Nov. 4: Jackie Bradley Jr. is a free agent, and so is fellow center fielder George Springer. Might the latter replace the former in Boston? That's what MLB Network insider Jon Heyman posits in his latest "Big-Time Baseball" podcast with Tony Gwynn Jr., guessing that Springer will get somewhere in the neighborhood of four years for $80 million.
"A great Connecticut athlete ... I'm gonna guess four for 80 -- in a different market he would probably do even better than that," Heyman said. "I'm gonna say he stays in New England and goes to the Red Sox, who are gonna let Jackie Bradley Jr. go somewhere else."
Execs like Springer's bat, CF defense
Nov. 4: Multiple executives picked Springer as their No. 1 overall free agent in an MLB.com poll, putting the center fielder in a small top tier of free agents.
Of the 21 MLB executives polled, four voted for Springer. Ten executives voted for J.T. Realmuto, six voted for Trevor Bauer, and one voted for DJ LeMahieu.
The executives on Springer's side liked his power and defense while playing center field.
One National League executive who voted for Springer said: "The combo of a premium bat at a premium position is hard to pass up. He's the type of player who would immediately be one of the two or three best players on whatever team signs him. He can hit anywhere in the lineup, and you can pencil him into center field every day. That's quite a luxury."
An American League executive called Springer "an excellent player and a proven champion," and added: "When identifying the 'best' free agent, we all strive to pinpoint the player who marries unquestioned talent with the innate ability to elevate the team's chance of excelling in the playoffs. George Springer is that player." More >
Will Springer find a home in Chicago?
Nov. 2: On the heels of a busy offseason in which they re-signed José Abreu and added Yasmani Grandal and Dallas Keuchel to a roster loaded with young talent, the White Sox became a bona fide contender in 2020, though they lost to the A's in the American League Wild Card Series and parted ways with manager Rick Renteria before hiring Hall of Famer Tony La Russa.
Pitching is arguably the team’s biggest area of need as it looks to take the next step, but the club could also use another big bat, especially in the outfield, and it seemingly has the payroll flexibility to add another top free agent.
In its annual free-agent predictions list, MLB Trade Rumors sees the White Sox signing Springer to a five-year, $125 million contract.
Springer’s .899 OPS this past season would have ranked first among White Sox outfielders, and he’d be a major upgrade over Nomar Mazara, who produced one homer with a .589 OPS in 42 games. Entering his final year of arbitration eligibility, Mazara is a non-tender candidate.
Springer, 31, has recorded a .270/.361/.491 slash line (131 OPS+) in the regular season during his career, and has hit 19 homers with an .895 OPS in 63 postseason games.
He should have a healthy share of suitors this offseason, with MLB.com's Mark Feinsand listing the Cardinals, Red Sox Padres and Blue Jays among the teams he views as potential contenders for Springer.